Boots & Sabers

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1015, 16 Nov 20

Obama Says Social Media Companies are Acting Like Publishers and Not Platforms

I agree!

Former U.S. President Barack Obama said that the extent to which social media companies claim they “are more like a phone company than they are like The Atlantic” is not “tenable,” he told the publication in an interview published Monday.

“They are making editorial choices, whether they’ve buried them in algorithms or not,” the former president said in the interview. “The First Amendment doesn’t require private companies to provide a platform for any view that is out there. At the end of the day, we’re going to have to find a combination of government regulations and corporate practices that address this, because it’s going to get worse. If you can perpetrate crazy lies and conspiracy theories just with texts, imagine what you can do when you can make it look like you or me saying anything on video. We’re pretty close to that now.”

Obama’s statement that social media platforms should be considered more like publishers than public utilities would have significant implications on how the companies are regulated.


President-elect Joe Biden has harshly criticized Section 230 and Facebook itself in an interview with The New York Times editorial board published earlier this year.

“Section 230 should be revoked, immediately should be revoked, number one. For Zuckerberg and other platforms,” Biden said at the time, referring to Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, taking a more extreme position than many of the Democrats and Republicans currently seeking to tweak the laws’ protections.

In October, I said:

In purposefully, actively, and personally deciding to stomp on a negative story about Joe Biden that was published by a reputable newspaper in the midst of a political campaign, Facebook and Twitter have definitively and unmistakably crossed the line from being internet platforms to publishers. As such, the legal protections granted to them under Section 230 must be withdrawn so that they can be regulated like The New York Times, Fox News, MSNBC, and all of the other publishers that filter, edit, and curate the information they provide to their subscribers.

Facebook and Twitter can’t have it both ways. If they want the legal protections provided under Section 230, then they must allow all information to flow freely. If they want to be information gatekeepers, then those protections must be withdrawn so that people have legal remedies against abuse.


1015, 16 November 2020


  1. jsr

    In some ways the social media company are between a rock and a hard place.

    If they don’t remove certain posts, politicians complain that they are providing a voice to bigots and other evil people.

    If they do remove certain posts, politicians complain that they are censoring the voices of individuals.

  2. Tuerqas

    That is not a rock and a hard place, it should be nothing but a simple choice to let all speak.  We’ve seen the disclaimers on network TV for decades and that is all that should be needed.  Unless the goal of social media is ‘to please Government’.  Then it is indeed a rock and  hard place.

  3. Jason

    Can you imagine if AT&T wanted to live sensor phone calls for false information?  Or USPS wanted to review letters for fake news?  They either allow free communication or they don’t.

  4. Owen

    Yeah, it’s not that hard. We do it here on B&S every day. We allow all comers with rare exception (criminal threats, sockpuppetry, etc.). We’ve been doing it for almost 20 years. It’s really pretty simple. It’s a choice.

  5. Kevin Scheunemann

    Obama is right.

  6. Merlin

    Just because Barak Obama has a moment of lucidity and states the obvious doesn’t mean anything. I seriously doubt that a Biden administration would make any moves whatsoever to blunt the effectiveness of their own propaganda apparatus.

  7. dad29

    Merlin’s cynicism wins the day.

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